A combination of unstuffy dialogue, wise casting, unselfconscious performances and sensuous but never pretty photography makes Campion's version of the nineteenth century feel current but not anachronistic.
The best costumers, set designers, and property masters can't conjure up the mental and emotional spaces of a simpler era; that requires a filmmaker who knows the virtue of quiet, patience, and attentiveness.
Bright Star shines brightly indeed, not only on the strength of a couple of powerhouse performances, but also as a look back at a time when poets were rock stars, with all the skinny British attitude that implies.
Campion -- who also wrote the screenplay, inspired by British poet Andrew Motion's biography of Keats -- tells the story of Keats and Fanny in delicate, painterly colors, layered in such a way that they're vividly vital.
Every frame of this exquisite period romance features an attention to detail, a passion for literature and an intense, fully clothed, pre-Victorian sexiness that suggest a director in something close to rapture.
There's enough material here for a solid, heartfelt period love story -- it may not make viewers swoon the way a good Jane Austen adaptation might, but it's well enough made to deliver an emotional impact.
Those who love language and particularly poetic verse will savor the dialogue, as well as the visual splendor of the film. With its gorgeously framed shots and superb craftsmanship, Bright Star is a thing of beauty.
Campion's big-sisterly encouragement of Cornish's lovely, openhearted performance -- and Whishaw's well-matched response -- results in a character instantly, intimately recognizable to anyone remembering her own first love.
There's a full complement of geese and mud and some women in bonnets, but Campion avoids finery and ceremony. She doesn't show off the period; she triumphantly makes it a time in which people live as best they can.